Morrissey is a divisive musician. For some, he is an over-dramatic depressive; for others, a modern poet unafraid to sing the truth of human insecurity and folly. Love him or hate him, the devotion he inspires is a phenomenon unto itself. How fortunate that the underutilized Majestic Ventura Theatre was incorporated into his touring plans. It’s one of the smallest capacity venues on the agenda and his performance there last Tuesday was nothing short of exhilarating.
The crowd was somewhat restless, partly because of polarizing opening act Kristeen Young, but mostly because, according to online reports, Sunday night’s show in San Diego was a disaster with an aborted set list and terrible sound. However, from the moment his crack band opened the show with “The Queen Is Dead,” all doubts were annihilated.
This is my third time seeing Moz live, and I have never seen the man in such an earnest mood. Morrissey’s carefully cultivated public persona requires a healthy dose of aloof posturing, both onstage and off. However, on Tuesday night his guard was down. He was surprisingly talkative, dropping typical non-sequiturs like “Welcome to the Hollywood Bowl,” and “This is our last song” after the first song of the night.
The set list was another matter altogether. This is the Greatest Hits Tour, and both Smiths and solo classics were incorporated into the 20-song repertoire, including “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side,” “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want,” “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” and B-side masterpiece “I’ve Changed My Plea to Guilty.” After the final song, the band returned to the stage for a quick run-through of “You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side” and the show was concluded.
Basking in the post-show rush as the crowd scrambled out to the strains of Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” playing over the PA system, there was no doubt that this was a rare performance by one of pop music’s genuine icons-a powerful reminder of Morrissey’s talents as a vocalist and songwriter.